Friday, February 22, 2008

Update on the Learning From Games initiative

I decided to do a quick post as an update on the Learning From Games platform that Marinka Copier and I started last year. What we are working on at the moment is a format for a "gaming lab workshop" (working title) that could be used to tackle organizational problems using game design principles. However, it will take some time to get everyone on the same page about this and to agree on a format that we can experiment with. Bear with us. This is pioneering work.

Two abstracts that Marinka and I submitted were accepted. We will be presenting "The Play Element of Learning: Taking Serious Games Beyond the Magic Circle" at the Breaking the Magic Circle seminar in Tampere, Finland in April (where I participated last year as well). And we will present "The Power of Play: How Game Design Can Upset Organizations" at the Upsetting Organizations conference in Amsterdam in July. So we will be presenting our view on the analogy between game design and organization design to both sides. That should make for some interesting discussions.

Today I was interviewed by Alan Majer of New Paradigm (that's Don Tapscott's company). They are doing a research report for their clients on what enterprises can learn from multiplayer games. Besides myself they have spoken to people like Nick Yee and John Seely Brown. It was an interesting conversation, because Alan proved to have a very thorough understanding of the subject matter and the issues at play. We could get straight to the point and discuss topics such as comparing game design and organization design. We talked at length about how the design principles that cause this remarkable behavior in environments such as World of Warcraft could be applied in an organizational setting.

Apparently the right questions are slowly seeping into the minds of business leaders. I'd better get back to work on finding the answers.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Overtagging is not a virtue

Recently I used Flickr to search for some beautiful photo's. I used different tags and indeed I found amazing pictures. What I also notices was that the photographs Flickr returned didn't always correspond with the tag I used to find them (for instance, use the tag "search").

This notion got me wondering. If you tag an article, photo, blog, et cetera, there are always tags that are in the bulls-eye and there are tags that are in the outer ring. The underlying principle: the more tags you add, the more likely the chance of finding the tagged item.

This is true, but in information retrieval there's always a trade off between Precision and Recall. What you want is high on both (get exactly what you want, and a lot of it), but that's difficult to achieve. As a matter of fact: the more outer ring tags there are, the more noise you get. If every user gives an abundance of tags, the noise gets bigger. Tom Gruber used two pictures in a presentation, that explains this quite beautifully.

"Noisy" Tagging

"Clear" Tagging

Folksonomies thrive on the abundance of tagging, but can there be a thing as "overtagging"? Is there a zero-sum game in tagging that leads to a higher recall, but lower precision?

Conceptual Search engines like Collexis give you the opportunity to score the tag for relevance, thus letting the user sit behind the driver seat for the weighing factors. I'm not familiar with the algorithm used by Flickr, but whether or not it weighs the tags for relevance, I do think that overtagging is not a virtue. If each user tags its items "as spot on as possible", the total tagosphere would prosper from it.

Does this mean that Flickr should build a Taxonomy of Tags? No, it doesn't (that's old paradigm thinking), it's just that to much of something is never a good thing. What it does mean is that their should be a governance structure to the tagosphere that lets it grow as emergent as possible, but not out of bounds.